Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Guest Post by Author Sarvenaz Tash

I invited author Sarvenaz Tash on Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss how she created the book trailer for her debut novel, The Mapmaker and the Ghost. Thank you, Sarvenaz!

Originally, I thought I wasn't going to make a trailer for my middle grade debut novel, The Mapmaker and the Ghost. The truth was that, having gone to film school, I really wanted a high production quality, live-action one and I knew I didn't have the resources for that. But then, a couple of months before my book came out, thanks to the random creativity of the Internet, I was struck by an idea to try and do a stop-motion one. Stop-motion is a method wherein inanimate objects appear to move (think claymation) because of thousands of photographs strung together with just a tiny bit of movement in each one.
So then I just had to brainstorm a way to do it. I'd made short films in college but never a stop-motion one.

But no time like the present, right?
First, my artist fiancé spent a couple of days hand-painting all the elements of my cover.

Then he scanned them in and printed them out and I spent a good portion of time cutting them out with teeny, tiny scissors.

We glued the background together and spent a while figuring out our uber-sophisticated set-up.

By this point, it was 11 PM on a Saturday. Obviously, all natural light was gone. I spent a large chunk of time trying to remember what on earth I had learned about three-point lighting in film school (fact: lighting was my worst subject there). I attempted to recreate said lessons with three lamps.
We spent a couple of hours shooting, with my fiancé moving the pieces just a little bit for every shot and me snapping a photo with the iPhone remote (so that the camera wouldn't move by me touching the screen).

And then we watched the results.

Here is a still:

They were...not good.

I wondered if it was cute and kitschy/homemade-looking, or just I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing and awful/homemade-looking. When I woke up the next morning, I knew it was the latter.

I was pretty bummed and spent about half-an-hour sure I had to scrap the whole thing.
But then I listed to the amazing voiceover that my actress friend Rachel F. Hirsch had done for me, and I knew I just had to try to get that out into the world somehow. If only I could get the images to match the quality of her work. I stared at my screen. I stared at my cover. I stared at the credits I had made for the trailer. 

And ever so slowly it dawned on me. Since, unlike claymation, the elements of my stop-motion were originally 2D art anyway, I could simulate stop-motion via basic computer software.
So I did. 

Using Photoshop, I recreated all the artwork by putting each background element and character into its own layer. Then I moved whatever layer needed to be moved a tiny bit and saved it as a frame. Repeat about 400 times. 

I uploaded the sequence to iMovie. Put in the music and voiceover and…voila!


I actually had a lot of fun going back to my film school roots, both with the actual editing work and with the problem-solving. And, ultimately, my failed 'trial'er ended up being a good storyboard for the finished product. 

And a little lesson in perseverance never hurt anybody, especially not me!

I'm a writer. My debut children's novel (middle grade) is called The Mapmaker and the Ghost and is published by Bloomsbury/Walker. It's available everywhere now! I also blog a lot about things I'm geeking out over. To lean a bit more about me, including how to pronounce my name, check out my blog

“Tash has created a memorable cast of characters and a story that combines both humor and suspense... Children are sure to enjoy this combination of an intrepid heroine, some slightly disreputable characters with humorous and disgusting habits, and a ghost in need of assistance.This page-turning adventure will tickle readers’ funny bones.” - School Library Journal
"Full of adventure and mystery, this novel is sure to bring out the explorer in every reader... RECOMMENDED.” - Library Media Connection
The Mapmaker and the Ghost is a book that readers of all ages will gobble up like cupcakes. A definite must read!” - Word Spelunking


I am giving away one copy of The Mapmaker and the Ghost

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. The giveaway will run from July 12 to 11:59 p.m. on July 15. 

2. You must be at least 13 to enter. 

3. Please pay it forward. 


Download the teaching guide (PDF). 

Read the first three chapters right now. 

Borrow The Mapmaker and the Ghost from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops

8 comments:

  1. Watch the amazing trailer, then read the book, which is a fun adventure story that kids will love. Great to see you here, Sarv!

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  2. What a great post! This is a book I am really looking forwrd to reading and sharing.

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  3. The book sounds intriguing.

    I especially appreciate your description of how you used photoshop to create a book trailer. This would be an excellent example of a possible student project (in many subject areas). Thanks!

    Janet | expateducator.com

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  4. I love the description of how the trailer was made. The best part is the inclusion of the trial and error. Sometimes we forget that the polished product may not have been the first, second or even third try. Thanks!

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  5. This looks like such a fun read, from such a fun girl. Thanks for this post, you two! And animating in Photoshop...that's no joke! Nice work!

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  6. I really enjoy hearing artists talk about their process! It's fascinating to me. Thank you, Sarvenz, for sharing this with us. I bought this book the day it was released because I was so excited about a new middle grade. I read it and loved it! I love that it's about maps and exploring and following your passion. Thanks, Mr. Schu, for highlighting this book.

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  7. Wow, everyone! Thank you so much for all the lovely comments. I LOVE hearing that teachers and librarians, especially, are excited about the book. So thank you doubly for that! :-)

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